Justin Fields Gets Jameis Winston Comparison, Late-1st Round Grade from Scout

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2021

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields throws a pass against Indiana during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State beat Indiana 42-35. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

An NFL scout believes Ohio State's Justin Fields could display the same maddening inconsistency at the pro level that hindered fellow quarterback Jameis Winston during his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"He is one of the top athletes [at quarterback] of all time," the scout told The Athletic's Bob McGinn. "Best thing Fields does is throw the deep ball. But is he Jameis Winston? That's who I see. I see the best quarterback in the draft on one play, and on the next play, I see a guy that makes stupid mistakes. Throws off his back foot a lot. Has a lot of balls tipped. He's a first-rounder, but I wouldn't take him until the bottom [of the round]."

Winston compiled 121 touchdown passes and 88 interceptions across five years with the Bucs before spending the 2020 season as a backup with the New Orleans Saints.

There was a brief moment after Fields led the Buckeyes to a 49-28 upset of Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals where it appeared he could challenge the Tigers' Trevor Lawrence for the top spot in the class, but he couldn't replicate that performance in the national title game against Alabama.

The OSU signal-caller completed just 17 of his 33 throws for 194 yards against the Crimson Tide, who steamrolled everybody in their path in 2020. He added 67 rushing yards.

It halted his push toward the No. 1 spot, with Lawrence the presumptive choice of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and left Fields in the second tier alongside BYU's Zach Wilson, with Alabama's Mac Jones and North Dakota State's Trey Lance not too far behind.

The scouts who spoke with McGinn aren't sure whether Fields is a Day 1 starter in the NFL, but they believe he has the tools for long-term success.

"He's a modern-day RPO [run-pass option] quarterback," one scout said. "He's a naturally accurate ball thrower, and the ball gets out of his hands too. He's not a runner like Lamar [Jackson], but he's way better than Jalen Hurts was. He will have to learn progressions. Very athletic. Very cool demeanor. Plus, he's sturdy."

Another added: "What would be ideal for him would be to go somewhere and not have to play the first year. But the physical talent is so 'wow.' They're going to see that in practice and say, 'This guy has to play.' There needs to be a tremendous amount of growth, which I think he is capable of."

It's become increasingly rare for a quarterback taken early in the first round to sit out the first year. Even when that's the plan, as was the case with the Los Angeles Chargers' Justin Herbert last season, something usually happens to change the course, whether it be an injury or poor play from the starter.

Fields can throw bullets to any level of the field, but as the scouts alluded to, it's going to take a year or two for him to become more comfortable reading defenses. His early success will likely be dependent on landing within the right offensive scheme with a lot of quick, first-read throws.

He could be a perfect fit for the modern NFL if given the time to develop through some early growing pains, similar to the arc the Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen followed over the last three years.